When the Brewers decided to bring Mike Moustakas back, they didn’t waste much time in announcing they would be trying him at second base this spring.
Craig Counsell and David Stearns said they wanted to see how the career third baseman would handle the new position before deciding whether they had to move on to Plan B. As it turns out, that backup plan — likely Travis Shaw going back to second base full-time — never had to be tested.
While Moustakas has yet to be confronted with a double play opportunity this spring, he’s acquitted himself well enough and put in enough work every day that Counsell was comfortable enough to name Moose his starting/primary/initial out-getting second baseman today.
#Brewers manager Craig Counsell makes it official. Mike Moustakas is team's primary starting second baseman.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 11, 2019
Craig Counsell said @Mooose_8 has settled internal debate on 2B. Moustakas has done early work each morning and handled game action flawlessly. He hasn’t turned a double play yet, but has shown very good hands, feet, and instincts.— Sophia Minnaert (@SophiaMinnaert) March 11, 2019
Moustakas has apparently been so solid that the possibility of Shaw playing second base again this year never came up, according to Tom Haudricourt:
I had a pretty good idea Mike Moustakas was the #Brewers second baseman when I asked Travis Shaw the other day how many ground balls he had taken at 2B this spring. "None," he said.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 11, 2019
Counsell is conceding that Moustakas does not have ideal range for a second baseman, but says his instincts are good. With the way the Brewers move their infield around, the probability of Moustakas having to try to make a long-ranging play could also be reduced, and if Counsell plays it like he did at the end of 2018, odds are we’ll see Moustakas switched out for Hernan Perez or another “true” middle infielder in the late innings, once Counsell is relatively sure Moustakas’ spot in the batting order won’t come up again.
To his credit, Moustakas has also taken the move well on a professional level. When Moustakas signed, it came out that the Brewers were very open about this possibility with him throughout the process. Despite reportedly getting multi-year offers elsewhere to play the only position he’s ever known, Moustakas took a one-year deal with the understanding it would mean changing positions.
#Brewers Mike Moustakas on playing 2B: "I’m really enjoying it at second. It’s fun; it’s new. And I feel comfortable, which is the most important thing. I’m getting a lot of work over there."— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 11, 2019
Nobody is expecting Moustakas to be a Gold Glover at second base, but it looks like at this point management is fairly confident that he at least won’t be lose-you-a-game bad defensively. Considering the offensive upgrade he provides over any of the other options, it’s likely worth the risk.